Youngest champion takes record title for Taranaki's four peak challenge

Thomas Hadley, 17, completed the four peaks challenge in 9 hours and 45 minutes.
SIMON O'CONNOR/Fairfax NZ

Thomas Hadley, 17, completed the four peaks challenge in 9 hours and 45 minutes.

While the four peaks challenge acquires a new champion, Thomas Hadley establishes a new title.

The ascent of Mt Taranaki followed by a climb to the top of each of the Pouakai and Kaitaki ranges and finishing with a hike up Paritutu Rock took the last record-holder 9 hours and 58 minutes - but that was smashed on Friday by the 17-year-old Francis Douglas Memorial College student, who completed the feat in an impressive 9 hours and 45 minutes.

Hadley has not only knocked out last year's record by 13 minutes, but has also set the bar for under-18s.

Former four peaks champion Shaun Palmer (right) made sure his friend and new title-holder, Thomas Hadley, took out the ...
SIMON O'CONNOR/Fairfax NZ

Former four peaks champion Shaun Palmer (right) made sure his friend and new title-holder, Thomas Hadley, took out the winning spot for fastest challenge completion.

"If someone beats my record I think I would do it again," the teenager said. "We'll see how I feel tomorrow."

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Not only did Hadley prepare himself with about four months of training and peanut butter sandwiches, but he also left hidden treasures on Mt Taranaki.

"I went up yesterday and stashed some water bottles," he said.

"I did pretty well with my water rations."

And while the summit had ankle-deep snow that made for a challenging 6am start, Hadley said an abrupt helicopter landing at Holly Hut three hours later had him him anxious about time.

"It was really random. It landed in the middle of the track and I had to wait about five to 10 minutes," he said.

"I was expecting it to take a tramper with a broken ankle, but nothing happened."

The four peak challenge asks participants to climb 2838 metres and descend 3704m of rugged terrain, with a final dash from Oakura to the final climb of Paritutu.

Those to attempt the challenge are expected to travel by foot.

"All up it's about 50 kilometres," Hadley said.

He began training as part of his school's Adventure Racing team's preparation for the Hillary Challenge in June.

The national challenge welcomes racing sport teams from throughout New Zealand to compete in an event that tests both problem solving skills and timely completion of remote mountain paths. 

But Hadley's eight-person team lost two members due to injuries and a chance to compete in this year's event had been forfeited.

Enter four peaks' former champion, 19-year-old Shaun Palmer.

"I've been helping him along the way," he said.

"Carrington Ridge is the most technical part. We went up yesterday and I showed him the way down."

Palmer even made sure he was by Hadley's side when he came sprinting down Paritutu about 3.45pm.

"I was stoked he wanted to beat the record," he said.

"It's good to keep it progressing. It gives people a goal to get to."

Palmer had taken out the record last year, which was a 10 hour and 10 minute completion set by Ian McAlpine in 1981.

 - Stuff

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